The Planting Justice Nursery + Sogorea Te' Land Trust:
In 2016, with the help of over 900 investors as well as the Northern California Community Loan Fund, Planting Justice purchased a 2-acre lot on 105th Ave in the Sobrante Park neighborhood to host the Rolling River Nursery plant collection, one of the most successful permaculture plant nurseries in the world with national clientele and the largest, most biodiverse collection of certified organic edible tree crops in North America…1,100 varieties!
After 2 years of developing and cultivating this urban food production site, Planting Justice began a partnership with the Sogorea Te’ Land Trust that will ultimately facilitate the transfer of Ohlone land back into native stewardship in the first project of its kind in the San Francisco Bay Area.
The Ohlone community in the East Bay has no land base.
They have been denied federal recognition, they have been politically and economically marginalized, and their sacred sites have been razed for development.
As an urban Indigenous women-led Land Trust, STLT has been working towards reclaiming land and creating opportunities for all people living in the Bay Area to work together to re-envision the Bay Area community and what it means to live on Ohlone land. This relationship developed through a community visioning series STLT hosted in 2016 called “What Does Land Mean to You?”
Planting Justice is an intersectional organization creating family sustaining careers that cultivate food sovereignty, economic justice, and community healing. We create space for people impacted by mass incarceration and other oppressive systems to envision and work towards personal and community transformation through land reclamation, ecological design, and urban food/medicine production.
Our work with STLT further broadens the scope of what Food Justice means by acknowledging the relationship food growers have to stolen Indigenous land. Together, we are working to create an unprecedented opportunity for STLT to have its first geographic land base.
The 2 acres in Sobrante Park, deep East Oakland…
Is in the process of being transformed into an urban food production hub and plant nursery staffed almost entirely by people who are formerly incarcerated and Sobrante Park community leaders. The shared vision includes the creation of an indigenous cultural site with a traditional arbor, a place for ceremony, and a place to remain true to the original teachings and pass them onto the next generations.
Together these two organizations are developing a legal easement to recognize the history of Ohlone land here in Oakland and move towards land redistribution. This easement will become part of the land title and will grant STLT access to the land in perpetuity. Additional plans are being made to transfer the title to STLT.
As Trust in the Land author Beth Rose Middleton said “The land trust and accompanying tool of the conservation [or cultural] easement are mechanisms that Indigenous groups can use to protect, access, restore, and reclaim lands.”
Indeed, this collaboration weaves together strategies of resilience supporting food justice work, environmental justice, economic justice, cultural sovereignty, decolonial land work, and repatriation. This community collaboration will create a replicable model for collectively owning local food systems so that other disenfranchised communities can learn strategic ways to collaborate with their local Native communities to return land to Native stewardship.
Contributing to Ohlone land healing
This project will be supported in part by the Shuumi Land Tax, a radical voluntary way for Bay Area residents to acknowledge the theft of Ohlone land and work to contribute to its healing.
Supporters can compute an estimated contribution on the STLT website. The Shuumi Land Tax directly supports STLT’s work to acquire and preserve land, establish a cemetery to reinter stolen Ohlone ancestral remains and build a community center and round house so that current and future generations of Indigenous people can thrive in the Bay Area.
STLT calls on us all to heal from the legacies of colonialism and genocide, to remember different ways of living, and to do the work that our ancestors and future generations are calling us to do.
“The loss of land plays out in our everyday lives and it shapes how we look at things and how we feel about ourselves. We’ve spent 15 years in the Bay Area doing community organizing in the Indian community. And honestly, all the issues we’re struggling with come down to land. You know, the land was taken and that was such a deep soul wound. The taking of the land, the heart of the people, was the cause of a lot of problems. And I believe that with the land trust, and the land itself, I think that’s really going to help us to find our way back.”
Co-founder of Indian People Organizing for Change + Sogorea Te’ Land Trust
“There are many contributing factors that show the relationship between the loss of tribal cultural identity and substance abuse…. If the loss of cultural identity is indeed the major factor in the abuse problem, then a reclamation of said identity would contribute to lower rates of abuse. How does one reclaim tribal identity? What can bring together land, language, and spiritual beliefs? One possible solution is that of ceremony…. The reintroduction of tribal cultural identity and traditional healing practices could be of great help. Incorporating the Native American sweat ceremony in conjunction with programs currently in use would be much more beneficial. This holistic approach would give one the unique opportunity to live a reintegrated lifestyle as was originally intended.”